A Free Life, which appeared last year, is an epic work, with a panoramic vision whose narrative form resembles a hefty, plot-driven nineteenth-century English novel. Nan Wu, a student who is pursuing graduate work in political science at Brandeis University, and his wife Pingping become disillusioned with the prospect of returning to their homeland in the wake of Tiananmen Square. Nan decides to abandon his studies and instead to nurture his love of poetry, and to this end he takes a series of menial jobs while his wife remains a housekeeper and cook to a wealthy American widow.
The stream made a merry little sound as it washed her brain and her britches. She dug deep into her sack of surplus fears. It was the last day. She died by inches. A doctor in that time was never thought of--he was next to the under- taker--and besides, who had the money? She was young. She had not been interested in dying. But no one she knew ever went anywhere except to die.
Even the advent of a growing scientific basis for medical practice--which we can most accurately date from the middle third of the nineteenth century--has not lessened by an iota the degree to which medical authority has traditionally depended primarily on a well-recognized code of morality. As that authority has been in a state of decline for the past several decades, countless commentators have sought to identify the most significant of the congeries of reasons for which the steady downward slope continues. Has the profession sold its soul to science?
Who's Your City?: How the Creative Economy is Making Where You Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life By Richard Florida (Basic Books, 374 pp., $26.95) In 2002, with The Rise of the Creative Class, Richard Florida launched one of those terms or categories or ideas--there have been many--that try to structure our contemporary societies into something more complicated than the Marxian conflict between the owners of the means of production and those who are exploited as proletarians working on them.
In that café in a foreign town bearing a French writer'sname I read Under the Volcanobut with diminishing interest. You should heal yourself,I thought. I'd become a philistine.Mexico was distant, and its vast starsno longer shone for me. The day of the dead continued.A feast of metaphors and light. Death played the lead.Alongside a few patrons at the tables, assorted fates:Prudence, Sorrow, Common Sense. The consul, Yvonne.Rain fell. I felt a little happiness. Someone entered,someone left, someone finally discovered the perpetuum mobile.I was in a free country.
O sage I know I am I am a sageI know unkindness is a selfish acta straight fish act or fishy furtive act fish or fowl and a slice of the knifeIn the word selfish have you seen the fishI meant to write you a poem of love green sage grey sage and sings the silver windSwing me on the swing sway me with your handwing me on the wind these were all my songs The geese in their V's are yipping like dogsalong the selvedge of the winter woodsThere must be an edge to the self a hedge against hell Must be an edge or a vergeHere is the self-edge that you cut againstHere I am savaged I meant to be saved O s
Fitzgerald, eager to draw the shy, Yale-educated prep-school French teacher into his dashing retinue, arranged to have Wilder and Wilson picked up at the train station, but it was Marcel Proust who helped to smooth the way between them.
The Invention of Scotland: Myth and History By Hugh Trevor-Roper (Yale University Press, 282 pp., $30) Hugh Trevor-Roper seemed to be an Oxford don supplied by central casting. An erect Northumbrian with a distinctly patrician air, he commanded a grandee position impregnably within the Establishment.
Angler: The Cheney Vice PresidencyBy Barton Gellman (Penguin Press, 384 pp., $27.95) As Americans prepare to choose a new president, it may seem a curious exercise to rehearse the manifest failures of the current one. But either Barack Obama or John McCain is going to be stuck with the burdensome legacy of the Bush years, and the rest of us will be too--possibly for a long time. The war in Iraq is still with us. So are Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. The Wall Street cataclysm will ramify, locally and globally, for many months, perhaps years.
On the Side of the Angels: An Appreciation of Parties and PartisanshipBy Nancy Rosenblum (Princeton University Press, 576 pp., $29.95) Partisanship is resurgent in America, and hardly anyone likes it. To say that American politics has become polarized along party lines is tantamount, for most people, to acknowledging that something has gone wrong with the country.